First and foremost, let me start by wishing each person reading this blog a very happy, health, prosperous and insightful 2020!
May your year be full of adventure, meaningful conversations and joy.
Here is hoping that your worst fears never happen and your most secret birthday “candle” wishes do.
Cheers to those who are brave enough to dare to dream, work earnestly towards goals, are honest about their capabilities and limitations.
“High 5” to the people who try, despite the odds, and regardless if they succeed or fail.
Kudos to those who adopt and don’t shop when they add a “furever” family member. Dogs and cats who are adopted rescues are extra special – just like those who bring them in to their homes.
Blessings to those who are parents, caregivers, mentors and teachers. You are helping to invest in our world more than anyone can measure.
Huge and heartfelt thank you to those who run towards the fire to help, arrive first at the scene of the accident or keep our world safe.
Lastly… remember those who are no longer here walking among us but forever in our hearts and minds. They built the legacy to which we continue our daily lives. We owe them a debt of gratitude and love.
Have you ever watched the movie Mary Poppins? If so, do you remember how the main character (played by Julie Andrews) seemed to have a magical purse that carried everything and anything one could possibly want – yet not weigh a ton?! Honestly, I coveted that bag as I always wanted my own “Mary Poppins purse” as I tend to “carry my life” with me whenever I leave the house. Now thanks to the Heyrtz company and their amazing Laptop Tote Bag, I feel as if I have discovered a bit of “magic” that allows me to bring along all my essentials when I travel and work!
This tote bag simply is perfect for those who need to carry their office with them when “on the go”. Here is a list items I added to my tote when I filled it for the first time.
TWO MAC COMPUTERS (13 and 15 inches)
ACCESSORIES to the electronics above, including a microphone and ear buds
My computer and phone chargers
Powerbank plugged in for easy use with the charging function integrated in to the bag
Pens, pencils, small stapler, and ruler
My key case
Toiletries for travel
I am sold! This Heyrtz will definitely be the tote I use for carry on luggage. Lightweight and comes with a handy and sturdy strap that allows you to secure and rest the bag on the handle of larger wheeled luggage. Did I mention it is waterproof! (I truly wish I had this bag when a passenger sitting next to me on a recent flight spilled his drink all over my carryon items!)
AND one of my favorite features… (yes – there is MORE!)… this bag offers a USB charging port. You simply need to add your own choice of powerbank. This is the bag I would have designed for my lifestyle, especially my freelance media work, but thankfully I don’t need to do that as Heyrtz did it for me!
Lastly, more great news! This bag is not expensive. You may be shocked to learn that that his bag, as shown above, with the discount code I received (and share with you below) is only $29.99! No joke!
I know the holiday season nearly has passed, but the season for DEALS has not! So grab this tote for yourself or give it as a gift. Think of it as a way to celebrate a graduation, new job or birthday! And for my friends who work in media – THIS IS YOUR #MUSTHAVEBAG!
As aforementioned, I received a special link from the company for you to use to get deals on this bag and more! Simply use the link and my name as the code.
This link will bring you to DealSpotr.com – a new way to shop and SAVE!
I purchased this product and was reimbursed via my participation with a media campaign for this company. However, this truly is an awesome tote and all my comments are 100% my own opinions and writings.
Every year I try to write a short list of recommended gift ideas for the holiday season. This year, I am including an eclectic list of suggestions – some that you will find on my Amazon list of holiday ideas and others that are “non- traditional”. I hope they pique your interest! Enjoy!
I wrote this past week about tablift®. Reminder: I am offering a GIVEAWAY CONTEST associated with this product until Dec. 2, 2019. . Simply go here to learn more about this accessory for your tablets and how to enter the giveaway. A super gift idea for most ages.
I love our BLINK and if you are into home devices that are “smart” and convenient check out the BLINK XT2 and ECHO DOT combo pack. On sale CYBER MONDAY on AMAZON. Also, available as individual purchases.
Non-Traditional Gift Ideas
Here is my list of non-traditional gift ideas for this year. If you have any others to add – please do so in the comment section below.
2. Adopt a Senior – An organization to help senior centers or individuals who do not have much family support. If this organization does not resonate with you, please consider donating to your local senior facility. One way is to help is to provide games for their group activities. Balls, giant BINGO games, decks of cards with large print and activity boards are all used in facilities that help our seniors, especially those with cognitive / memory issues. Here are some ideas if you wish to explore.
3. Donate to the arts. Every year there are local theaters, dance companies, museums, and more that are seeking funds in order to provide quality entertainment and activities for our communities. They need our help. Please consider donating locally or globally to keep the arts alive.
4. SHOP LOCAL. Buy goods or gift certificates to local restaurants, book stores, even service shops like cleaners, nail salons, grocery stores and hair stylists! Support our communities as well as your “friends” online.
5. #NoHungryKid.org – NO child should have a day where they feel hunger. Please support this organization (and if you give on #GivingTuesday contributions will be matched!)
You will LOVE tablift® by nbryte. You will love to give it as a gift. You will love to ask Santa for one for yourself. You will love the functionality. You will LOVE the price! AND… YOU WILL LOVE THAT I AM OFFERING A GIVEAWAY!
What is tablift®? Here is where photos can be worth a zillion words to describe this handsfree device that helps you to view with ease content on a tablet or cell phone.
tablift has strong but lightweight construction making it perfect for travel or when lounging.
Use the tablift while in bed. Perfect for individuals who are bedridden due to illness or need a way to prop their device while lounging!
Save yourself from getting “tech neck” by bending too much to read your device. Use the tablift to be better with ergonomics and save yourself from future pain!
1- The tablift is compatible with the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Amazon Kindle, Asus, Microsoft Surface 2, 3 and other tablets. (Frankly, I think my iPhone 8 plus would also fit!)
2- Height of the tablift can be easily changed by stretching the “legs”.
3- User friendly. No complicated directions – just pop it up and fasten your device. Really – 3 steps, if you include removing it from the box!
4. Perfect for parents with young children, people with physical challenges, those who wish to have better ergonomics and travelers.
STEP 3- READ MY WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT on DECEMBER 3rd. This giveaway ends midnight December 2, 2019. Must be US resident, live in the US and be at least 18 years of age. You also can’t be one of my relatives. Winner chosen via a randomizer.
I was given a free gift of one TABLIFT for my personal use in exchange for this sponsored blog. But all opinions are organic, authentic and groovy.
Confession. I am a real push-over for books written and/or illustrated by children. l don’t care if it is their kindergarten Mother’s Day project or a book, such as The Wild Slide written and PUBLISHED by 8 year old ,Aryanna Khodorkovskaya – from Alfred Station, New York.
The Wild Slide is a very thoughtful and engaging story that in a few pages tells a rather sophisticated tale that includes adventure, friendship and bravery. The reader is brought along with Aryana’s characters to enjoy an exciting “ride”. I found myself also wanting to be part of this cadre of friends and transported in to world where a Wild Slide could offer a great escape.
Illustrated by Michael Stevenson, Jr. – the story reads like a typical early childhood reader. The twist – it has content, including vocabulary, that would be more typical of an adult writer who is creating for a child, rather than a child writing for other children.
Here is another accolade for Aryana – not only does she have a book that is published BUT she holds the record for being the YOUNGEST published author in Western New York!
Keep in mind that rarely does an author, of any age, become published on their own. In this case – Aryana credits Nicholas Dosch for “generous financial and emotional support.”
She also had the artistic talent of Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. to help add the illustrations that graced the pages of Aryana’s story. I was curious to see how these two teamed up and what role as a mentor Michael may have had with this project.
Here is a short interview with Michael:
Question 1: How would you describe your artistic illustrations and the inspiration for them in Aryanna’s book, “The Wild Slide”?
MSJr.: The Wild Slide, written by Aryanna Khodorkovskaya, was quite descriptive in nature which provided a more than adequate foundation for creating imagery for the book. One of my favorite lines is “‘Should we do this?’ Violet asked. ‘Yes’ said William. ‘No!’ said Rosie, looking panicked.” Rosie’s demeanor was spelled out for me. Various other elements were laid out for me too, like later when Violet and Rosie gives Zee a necklace and bracelet respectively, I knew I wanted to include those elements in the character design. I also modeled the character of Violet after Aryanna herself, and Rosie after her sister Natasha. Violet calm and composed, delicately dressed, while Rosie has a slightly more ruffled aesthetic, with untied shoes in every scene.
As far as my own illustrative style goes, I have always had a style that closely resembles that of children’s drawings. I like my drawings to communicate an idea without relying on the exemplification of drawing technique. Part of the reason is that I don’t derive intense pleasure or joy from agonizing over details. I want to move on to the next thing. I also enjoy the simplicity of the drawings I do. However, this also serves the nature of my work with young people. They’re always shocked and impressed by what I’ve drawn, as well as how quickly when I’ve done the drawing in front of them. This creates a level of comfort with them, I’m not producing photorealistic drawings, the likes of which they could never produce themselves. I produce work that’s accessible to them both visually and practically as far as their own drawing practice goes.
Question 2 : As an adult, you appear to “slide” into the role as mentor, who was or is your mentor?
MSJr.: Interestingly, most of my work is collaborative by nature, a process that’s been a long time in the making. Much of my work is in direct response to having a series of primarily elder mentors in life and practice inside and outside of the art world. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the exhibition that The Wild Slide was produced for, was actually all about this dynamic. While I was growing up in Alfred New York I had a series of mentors, a prominent one being Fred Tscheda who taught neon and lamp design at Alfred University.
I also collaborated with Tschida for the Won’t You Be My Neighbor exhibition on a project involving the collection and display of rocks found across America. Fred and I have collaborated on rock based projects in the past and hope to collaborate on more in the future. We still stay in touch even though we’re a few time zones apart. At this point the majority of my practice is one on one or small group mentorship projects with young people.
In closing – please add The Wild Slide to your holiday gift list. Amazon offers it and consider it an investment in the future of this creative writer! Thanks to Aryana for letting us in to the world of her Wild Slide friends! And, thanks to Michael for his responses.
I love November. First, it is that time of year where the ocean and sky take on wonderful hues here in Southern California. The air is a bit crisper and some days, like today, we have “actual weather”. I am typing this blog while it is raining with impending thunderstorms. A rarity here in SoCal!
November also forces me to slow down and take count of all the wonderful people and opportunities I have in my life. Starting with Hubby. This week we celebrate 32 years of marriage. I like to keep our personal life fairly private – so let me just say that I am grateful for him – every -single -day. Of course, the rest of my family, including our two “offspring”, are amazing, Yes, I am bragging, as I hope all Moms do, when it comes to their kids – young and grown.
I am grateful for a group of friends that keep me grounded, busy and laughing. I have the privilege of calling some very talented, interesting, smart and spectacular people my lifelong friends. Sadly life gets busy – right?! So… even though I don’t see some folks on a regular basis, I hope they know I am a phone call or email away.
I am thankful for good health. I have chronicled my cancer journey many times on this blog. Feel free to read my story about survival by starting here, if you wish.
If you have ever met, Bayla, our 6 – year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, you will know why I adore this dog and am grateful that some “force” brought us together. She is the light and comedian in our home. This week she received a few new toys – including a creative gift from a pet company – the Smart Dog pull toy.
Full disclosure – Our dog is spoiled. I am to blame.
Which leads me to my next reason to be thankful …the privilege to work as a freelance digital media marketing specialist with super clients. Never underestimate the ability to work as a freelancer – which allows people, like myself, to work with a flexible schedule and write my own “office rules”.
Lastly, I am grateful to those who serve in positions that keep us safe, protected and able to live with freedom and liberty. It does not go unnoticed that while I sit at my Thanksgiving table with my family there are scores of families that don’t have all their loved ones joining them as they are working to protect and help all of us. So, to the individuals and families of those who serve in the military, medical/ caregivers or as first responders – thank you, thank you, thank you!
Instagram recently decided to become a “game changer” when it started to hide the number of likes a post received from followers and “gawkers”. I have been mulling over whether or not I thought this was necessary or if I even like this new aspect of one of my favorite social media platforms. I decided to take a practical look at what this change really means to those in media marketing – both brands and individuals who create sponsored posts.
Facebook-owned Instagram began testing hiding likes earlier this year. In August, Facebook said the Instagram test was meant to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive” on Instagram, and that Facebook was “excited by the early test results.”
Last Friday, I was one of the “chosen” to have my “Likes” stripped away from view.
First note…there is a lot of statistical analysis that goes in to social media marketing – algorithms, extrapolations, etc. Changes, as what is happening on Instagram and even Facebook and Twitter – means the “math analysis changes and for those who make a living in media marketing that can be a bit tricky to explain to clients.
But, for those who don’t need to know and comprehend the minutia of all the “math” – you know what? – it really won’t matter much. For example, today I checked my Instagram account and I could easily see my information by clicking the tab labeled INSIGHTS on my posts. My info was available and no ” data hiccups” noted.
The same was true for clients who I manage their accounts. Their posts and data also were safe and sound. Nothing was lost. No lack of information to show my clients. Promotions were still working. All was good within my media marketing world.
Here is a visual sample of a boomerang I posted
What was missing was the ability for others to view and compare LIKES. The competitive “edge” was gone. Ah… I could feel the snark drifting away. You see for years, and I mean years, I have had people “sneak peek” at my posts and compare “my results” to theirs. And, to be honest, I have been known to do the same. How do I know? They often blab. And, if you don’t know this already – very few secrets are kept in the world of media marketing. Why do I peek? Mainly to see if any of my created content has been “borrowed” by others. This happens again and again – so I need to keep checking.
Back to the marketing aspects … “Influencers” or any other label that describes a person working on behalf of a brand, tend to be the most competitive as their livelihood is sometimes dependent on the number of visible accolades (Likes). If people LOVE your post and have shared the love by making tons of comments or pressing the HEART – then that is very attractive to brands as they have recognized these behaviors as marketable. Meaning your audience and their behaviors can help increase a company’s brand awareness and sales.
But now there is no visible metric for brands to view how well your audience shared the love.. thus, . begging the questions – How can brands vett potential ambassadors by just looking at Instagram posts? And… What do the “LIKE” changes mean to brands and people who support brands?
There are several steps a brand can use to find ambassadors via Instagram – that may result in a better process than before.
Search for potential collaborators by conducting a hashtag search. For example, perhaps you are a hotel in Utah and you want to entice people to visit. You can search Instagram to find people by searching “TravelUtah”. Or even more extensively add more searches, such as these two hashtags: #Utah and #Travel. The more searching, the more choices.
Once you have determined that there were one or more potential “instagrammers” who had a profile that resonated with your needs – simply use one of the various ways to connect to them from their profile page. (Message/ Email options, for instance)
Note: Brands also may realize that they will need to change the way they have been advertising using sponsored campaigns. Affiliate marketing, I predict (as do others), will become much more in the forefront and an increased viable option for marketing plans.
Not seeing LIKES on posts also means that company representatives may need to be more vigilant with requesting frequent data and benchmark reporting.
Here is a visual sample of what I described above in my fictional example…
I did a simple search for #VisitUtah to see accounts other than Utah tourism businesses, but more travel bloggers or ambassadors. I found a lot – so I looked for the TOP ones.
I honed in on @SweetLittleJourney_ . Their posts seemed to check off all the boxes I was seeking – travel/ family/ adventure. Plus, their bio was great. Definitely worth starting a conversation to learn more about them.
Now for the “flip” of this scenario.
What if you are a person who wants a company (or several) to notice you and ask you to become a collaborator for sponsored campaigns with them? Here are my suggestions that will make Instagram hiding LIKES on posts irrelevant and you still able to make an “impression”.
Have a website with a full media packet that has concise examples of your work, your metric analysis and testimonials. This media packet fills in much more of your “digital story” than any “like” button ever could. Use your bio on Instagram to direct traffic to the website. Your metric data should be transparent and included on your website or sent “by request. Making available your digital resume information helps brands to make an informed choice- the good, bad and ugly. Don’t manipulate data – just tell the honest story. Don’t forget to have a sound SEO component to your website.
Be proactive and have interesting Instagram content that makes people want to search more information about you when they review profiles. Remember the lens can face both ways – so stop posting a ton of selfies.
Don’t be snarky or mean – spirited. Leave anything negative towards another behind. Be kind.
Post only what reflects you. Don’t try to emulate others just to get noticed. Don’t be a chameleon – changing your focus or brand – as eventually you will be discovered as “faking it”. For years I wanted my brand to be “educating others”. It was hard. Education isn’t a popular term nor “brand”. Everyone wanted lifestyle, etc. But, then I realized that what I did in my world of travel or entertainment also had “educational value” – that was my brand! By being more concise with my brand explanation and having clarity – I became more marketable. And while I am not a fan of calling myself an “influencer”, I accept that this term is mainstream – so I need to accept it. Frankly, I just want to be known as a “Sprinkler of information on behalf of brands”.
Use great hashtags that describe and help with generating interest – but don’t be crazy with the hashtags! If your hashtag number is in the double digits and starts with the number 2 or more – stop. 10 is plenty. 15 is more than enough. 20 or more is absurd, in my humble opinion!
Be open to affiliate marketing, event hosting or other ways to help a brands beyond Instagram posting and for you to generate income.
Keep up to date with all the changes across social media platforms – Instagram and others.
In closing, Instagram should be a digital library of what interests the poster and their experiences. Also, it can be a conversation starter for brands that need to increase their chatter, exposure or launch something new. New strategies for garnering new customers via Instagram and other advertising techniques are happening – and the changes are just starting in the digital world.
But, at the end of the day – digital marketing is about building relationships and telling a brand’s story. “LIKE it” or not.
Starting in 2005, I worked with an agency from the Washington DC area (Camera Ready Kids) to enlist some great kids for my Signing Families sign language videos and print educational materials. These kids ranged in ages and knowledge of sign language. Each one were very special and simply charming!
Many of our models have grown to become professional actors and I have been awestruck by their accomplishments. Also, they have each become amazing young adults and I am proud and privileged to have known them all for more than a decade. Without further adieu – meet some of our Signing Families models – all “grown up”!
Victoria and I at the San Pedro Film Festival 2017
Victoria Grace knew from a very young age that she wanted to be an actor. A Hollywood actor. I remember our first photo session. She was so serious! But, she was (and still is) beautiful and talented.
Since working with me she has moved on to work on music videos with Kelly Clarkson, several TV shows and numerous movies. Victoria Grace has been nominated for her acting ability (The Young Artist Award), too!
Last night I was watching a recorded episode of the new medical drama, NEW AMSTERDAM. There in a pivotal scene popped up Zephyr! I remember Zephyr as a tough subject to photograph until she warmed up to you. But, always so “spot on” with her emotion and skills!
Madelyn has had a successful career, especially with commercials and now is a freshman at college!
(We will keep her current college a secret to protect her privacy!)
I couldn’t be more thrilled for these young ladies’ for having so much success as students, actors, and simply kind young people. I feel privileged for having known them “then” and being able to follow the careers – now! Victoria, Zephyr and Madelyn – go grab the “golden ring” with gusto! You ladies rock!
Side note: If you were a Signing Families model – we would love to know where you are and what you are doing now. Feel free to CONTACT us!
I am not a fan of “Labor Day” weekend. First, similar to other holidays we celebrate in the United States – let’s face it – the use of “day” in the name is a misnomer. For some, “Labor Day” is an entire week of last minute vacation time or at the very least a four-day attempt to get the final moments of surf and sand!
Labor Day – 1960’s-1970’s
When I was young this weekend meant that summer was done and school was to begin. Yes, I liked the idea of going to the FIRST day of school. But, after that – I was not necessarily “in the mood”. I would have much rather been running around with friends until the “lights came on” and wait evenings for the ice-cream truck to stop at the nearby corner. Now, I was being relegated to sit in a row in a school – sans air conditioning – on what was predictably some of the hottest days of the year. Toss in the fact that I had a hefty dose of ADHD and sitting in a chair for HOURS after a couple of months of freedom, was for me – torture!
Labor Day 1977
Labor Day 1977 meant I was going to load a car up and drive the 7 hours from my house to the University of Delaware. While I was “all in” to enjoy living away from home and starting life as a collegiate – I was scared and second -guessing the distance. (Those feelings didn’t last more than a few days, by the way!)
Labor Day 1987 – 2007
When I had children my favorite part of their year (and mine) was indeed – Summer. We initiated the Adventurer’s Club – where each week one child would have the exciting “duty” to choose where we would explore in our local area. From museums to hiking state parks, we relished in the knowledge that we can come and go as we please. The lack of schedule and desire to explore on these mini-staycations were some of the most memorable moments of my parenting school-aged kids. Honestly, there were many times I “got” homeschooling.
Labor Day – My Mature Years
Now as a person with no children at home and my own business – Summer seems to roll in to Fall with nearly a blink. Except for a few notable changes. First, Labor Day weekend means that Hallmark stores (and others) seem to wave a magic wand and all their Christmas ‘stuff’ appears on shelves. Yes, we seem to bypass all other holidays and go straight to Christmas.
Positive Note: Fall also does bring one positive element- cheaper travel rates. Hubby and I often like to take advantage of this time of the year.
Back to my list… Labor Day also means that floral scents are replaced with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg spices. Good-bye fruit pies and say hello to pumpkin pie! Not to worry – I love fruit and pumpkin pies!
Lastly and my main “complaint” – This time of year means people become more serious. We wear our “school or work clothes” and put away the fun flip-flop sandals.. We accept, begrudgingly, a life with more regimental scheduling of our day and less time to sit and chat without rushing. And clearly many of us forget the care-free and relaxed feelings of summertime. UGH!
Now you know, my friends, why I am not a fan of Labor Day weekend.
In case you are curious – here is the history of Labor Day.